At Slate, Noreen Malone notes that American nuns were instrumental in countering the conservative position of the Catholic Bishops during the recent health care battle, but suggests that the next generation of nuns is likely to be more conservative than their progressive predecessors who “were formed in the crucible of Vatican II”:
The Catholic Church is having a moment. The information emerging almost daily about the pope’s involvement in covering up sexual abuse by priests comes on top of the failed recent stonewalling of health care reform by U.S bishops over abortion. None of this has endeared the church to the American left. Nuns, though, have been an exception. In the run-up to passage of the health care bill, representatives of the nearly 60,000 U.S. nuns signed a letter in support of the health care bill, contra the bishops, because, they wrote, supporting better health care is “the real pro-life stance.” From there, the dominoes toppled fast—Bart Stupak, the Catholic pro-life Democrat who’d refused to vote in favor of the bill because of the abortion question, initially dismissed the nuns’ letter but then backed down and settled for an executive order on abortion of questionable import and scope. And the bill passed.
The nuns’ health care letter might suggest that the ones who are left are increasingly left-leaning. That’s probably true of the older leadership. The women now heading their orders, as well as Catholic schools and hospitals, were formed in the crucible of Vatican II as the church shifted its emphasis toward engagement with the modern world. Over the past half-century or so, many American nuns have certainly become less cloistered. They have shed their habits in daily life and stuck with their given names rather than calling themselves, say, Sister St. Thaddeus. Some work as academics or social workers. While earlier generations romanticized the life of a sheltered bride of Christ, Mother Teresa has become these nuns’ ideal.
But that’s not as true of the shrinking pool of women who are becoming nuns now. Like their priestly male counterparts, the women who now take vows tend to be far more conservative than those who entered a generation or two ago, say clergy who shepherd young people through the process of discernment (figuring out whether you are called to a religious vocation).
Read the full article here.